‘There is a very hard fight to be
fought advancing the President’s
agenda outside of the administration’
Aditya Kumar, 30, son of Suresh Kumar, who quit he Obama administration on the same day as his father, was probably the longest-serving Indian American in the administration, but flew under the radar during his entire tenure. He had
some exposure only recently when the White House
released Presidential aides’ discussions about the controversial Solyandra loan guarantee to United States lawmakers to defuse a subpoena fight with Congress.
Solyandra is the now bankrupt solar firm, which was provided a $535 million loan by the Department of Energy,
and has become political fodder for the Republicans to
attack the Obama administration as yet another example of
obscene waste of taxpayer money. One of the e-mails
obtained by the Daily Beast, authored by Kumar, said that
then chief of staff and now Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel
was the official who suggested the administration’s involvement in this matter.
Kumar, who started out with the Obama Presidential
campaign and was deputy assistant to the vice president
and senior advisor to the chief of staff at the time of his resignation last week, reflects on his more than five-year stint
for IndiaAbroad: I’ve been interested in politics and public policy since high school, but I never thought I would get so involved, so early on in my career. Some people may
find this strange, but one of my good friends at the Stanford
Business School worked for Karl Rove in the Bush White
House. His encouragement and advice was one of the
biggest reasons I joined the Obama campaign right after
Like most people, I was introduced to Senator Obama by
his convention speech in 2004. By the end of 2006, I found
myself hoping he would announce his run for the presidency, which he ended up doing a few months later in
I started volunteering on the Obama campaign when I
was a second year MBA student at the Stanford Business
School. I flew out to Chicago on my spring break, and then
continued to help from California as I finished school.
As you can imagine, on my initial trip to Chicago, only a
few dozen people had started working on the campaign.
Right after graduating, in June 2007, I packed up my
Honda Civic and drove from California to Chicago. I didn’t
have a job, or a job offer, but I wanted to see what I could
do to help.
I was hired in July 2007 as the director of financial strategy, and also to oversee the campaign’s travel operations. I
worked with the campaign leadership to build various sce-nario-based models to plan how we would move money,
people and other assets from state to state based on win-loss outcomes and potential fundraising scenarios.
In early 2008, I was promoted to be the deputy chief
financial officer and in this capacity I built the campaign’s
nearly $1 billion budget, continued directing the campaign’s financial strategy and recruited a 20-person team
from the private sector — from top management consulting firms, investment banks, and accounting firms to manage the budget. I created and executed financial strategy
for the first presidential campaign without public funds
and the largest campaign budget in modern history.
Shortly, after the election November 4, 2008, I joined the
Aditya Kumar, right, with Vice President Joe Biden
Transition to build the White House budget and staffing
plan, working for Jim Messina — Rahm’s deputy chief of
staff in the White House, and today the campaign manager of the re-election campaign.
In January, I was offered a job in the White House, working for Rahm, Jim, and Pete Rouse, a senior advisor to the
Shortly after the President’s Inaugural Address, January
20, I boarded a bus at the Capitol with a skeletal first day
White House staff, and rode to 1600 Pennsylvania
Avenue. Our bus rode with police escort along the streets
that had been cleared for the parade that was to follow, and
had signs reading ‘White House’ on the outside. Needless to
say, there were a lot of cheering and waving onlookers. The
experience was pretty surreal.
When we got to the White House and exited the bus, the
secret service agent out front asked us ‘Are you the new
guys?’ That began my first day of work for the Obama
For the first year-and-a-half or so, I worked in the Chief
of Staff’s Office for Rahm, Jim and Pete on a variety of policy issues, including most things homeland security related and Health IT/VA issues, and a variety of critical
response operational issues. However, six months or so in,
I started working more and more closely with the vice president, on the implementation of the Recovery Act, which
was the $800 billion stimulus bill that we passed in
February of 2009.
I have traveled with the vice president not only across
America, but also to South Africa, and he is one of the
smartest, most impressive, dedicated and caring individuals I have worked for. Too often, it can become easy to get
lost in ivory tower discussions about the theoretical, the
ideal, or the macro picture. But more than anyone else, the
DAVID LIENEMANN/ THE WHI TE HOUSE
vice president will never let us forget who we’re working for
and who we’re fighting for — the middle class and those
who are struggling in America.
Whether it’s working on renewable energy policy, job
training policy or infrastructure policy, the vice president
will always be certain to ask the right questions about how
what we are doing will be affecting the everyday lives of
Americans trying to make ends meet all around this country.
As I told my colleagues before leaving, the experience of
working for this President and vice president, and with all
of the talented, dedicated, on the campaign and in the
administration has been the most professional rewarding
experience of my life.
We have already accomplished a great deal, and despite
what some have seen as the unproductive last year, I feel
like we’re just at the beginning stages of accomplishing a
whole lot more.
With nearly five incredibly-grueling years under my belt
on the inside of the Obama-Biden world, however, I felt
like it was time for me to step aside.
I have probably slept less on average over the last five
years, than I have in any other single year of my life. I’m
looking forward to spending the next few months getting
back to a slightly more normal routine. But, I feel like there
is a very hard fight to be fought advancing the President’s
and vice president’s agenda outside of the administration,
and I look forward to being a soldier in the effort while reengaging with my love for business as well.
After taking a few months to decompress and focus on a
few personal areas of interest in the education and the
mortgage space, I will be re-joining McKinsey & Company,
a firm that I worked at prior to business school, and a firm
that I love.